There are a number of standard credibility builders which are a must for establishing your brand and making your business credible, so they’re worth reviewing. To make this an easy read I am going to list these builders numerically from least to most important.
1) Professional E-mail Address: You must have a professional email address, preferably one that includes your domain name. For example, my email address is my first name followed by my website’s domain name, email@example.com. It will not work if you have an email like, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. If you don’t own a domain then use your real name followed by the email provider’s domain. e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Quality Business Cards: Having a quality business card is important as that’s what people will take with them and will refer to you by it later. If your business cards have perforated edges that you have printed at home by your self, or on the back it says “go to Vistaprint.com to order 250 free business cards”, then those cards undermine your credibility. On the other side, avoid using too promising tag lines and keep it simple, friendly and relevant. Over-sized images will not do either. The only exception for an unconventional business card is when you are an expert at that kind of distinctive work and you want your card to be memorable (e.g. designers, brand specialists). By the way, to order 1000 business standard cards from an online retailer costs roughly $44 with shipping included.
3) Professional Photographs: Having professional photographs taken is another must have. Remember my second send rule. You have only seven seconds to impress somebody and their first impression of you will hardly change throughout their lifetime. Therefore, displaying professional photographs on your promotional materials, business cards, your website is equally important to other points referred here. A photo of you with long hair and a Rolling Stones t-shirt doesn’t add any credibility to your business, unless you own a recoding studio and you sell Rock N’ Roll CD’s. Not having a photograph readily available on your web site or marketing materials leaves your potential clients wondering what you have to hide and doesn’t give them the opportunity to connect with you.
4) A Professional Website: If you don’t have a website you must build one ASAP. I highly suggest that you don’t design and build the website yourself unless you are a professional or a very talented amateur. A website will show who you are as a company – your origins, reputation in the community, successes you’ve achieved, what your company has to offer, information on how to find you geographically, different ways to communicate with your company (phone #’s, FAX, email, physical address), special offers and upcoming promotions, new additions to products and services, company news, public displays of testimonials from other customers about your company.
5) Testimonials: Testimonials help you connect with you current clients and show your future clients who you’ve worked with in the past and the results achieved. Ask your past clients for testimonials. Make sure that the testimonials you obtain are specific and show results achieved from working with you, not just generalities. A comment from a client named B.S. that says “Joe was a really nice guy. He helped a lot” will not be of any use to anybody and it will not help build credibility for what you do.
A testimonial needs to be specific. It needs to show a person’s real name, company, a website address and even their phone number if it is ok with the client who wrote the testimonial. Furthermore, the testimonial needs to be results oriented, e.g. “In three months Joe Blo helped us save $2000 in unnecessary marketing costs. We could have not done it without him”. If Joe is a Marketing Guru, the client’s satisfaction represent the results that many of his clients want to achieve, save money/make more money. It is even better if you have a testimonial from a client that is a well-known authority or brand in you circle. In our case we include on average three testimonials in every proposal we send out. One of our testimonials is a local bank we do work with. When a client sees that we are good for the local bank they assume that we’re good for them too.
Concluding, use your own judgement and choose what’s best for you and your business. The credibility builders mentioned here are a must have for any business, new and old. Feel free to add anything else you may think of?